VALLEJO – The Vallejo City Council on Tuesday approved over $7 million in salary increases for city employees over the next three years.
The council ratified tentative agreements with two labor organizations – the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1245 (IBEW) and Confidential, Administrative, Managerial, and Professional Association (CAMP) – while also adjusting the pay scale for the city’s executive members.
Several of the councilmembers said they supported the raises as a way to keep Vallejo competitive with other cities when it came to employee pay.
“I have a very hard time with just giving away money, it's your money, it’s the residents’, the citizens’ money so I ask a lot of questions and I put my foot down a lot of times, but in order to maintain the employees and in order to function as a city we have to be competitive,” Councilmember Mina Loera-Diaz, District 3, said about the raises.
Councilmember Hakeem Brown, at large, said he has heard some members of Vallejo’s senior management earn less than those in lower positions in other cities.
“We’ve lost so many employees in every department, good police officers, good firefighters, good people who work in public works, people who work on senior staff, staff in general,” Brown said. He added that the economic development department had been “gutted.”
Employees will receive a 2% salary increase for the first paycheck following council approval, and then increases of 2% and 3% starting on July 1, 2022, and July 1, 2023, respectively.
The full cost of the IBEW increase includes about $4 million with an increase of $1.2 million for fiscal year 2022-23 and $2.2 million the following year. CAMP’s contract includes an increase of $576,000 and $1 million scheduled for 2022-23 and 2023-24, respectively.
Meanwhile, the salary bump to the unrepresented group will cost Vallejo a little less than $1.3 million over the next three years, with the largest increase of $680,000 coming during the 2023-24 fiscal year budget. Those of the unrepresented group include the assistant city manager, city clerk, finance director, public works director and police and fire chiefs, among others.
Union members and those of the unrepresented groups will each receive a one-time $1,000 cash bonus.
Mark Love, the city’s human resources director, said the city budgeted for the increases during the current fiscal year and that the city completed a compensation study to review and address equity adjustments in pay that may be impacting retention, staff morale and recruitment.
Love said that separate memorandum of understandings with CAMP and IBEW expired in June 2020. Both unions agreed to one-year rollovers due to the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertain fiscal impacts.
Not everyone was on board with the raises as a few members of the public voiced their opposition.
“I am alarmed and upset about this proposal,” said Vallejo resident Anne Carr.
Carr also addressed morale issues in city hall and Vallejo’s inability to retain staff.
“If the city did not have such a problem with killing civilians, morale across city staff might be higher not to mention across the population,” Carr added. “Bottom line, we can not afford this.”
Melissa Swift, who often comments on issues in city hall, was also opposed to the increases.
“Although staff will continue to come up here and say that they are ‘overworked and underpaid’ our inability to attract and retain staff at all levels is due to the toxic culture inside city hall and has nothing to do with pay,” Swift said. “No amount of pay raise will fix that problem, only accountability will.”
Stephen Hallet, an aide to Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown, urged the council to add stipulations requiring city staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19. City Attorney Veronica Nebb said to do that would require the city to re-enter negotiations with the labor unions.
The council took separate votes on each of the two labor agreements and the update to executive pay. Councilmember Cristina Arriola, District 6, voted against the pay increase for CAMP members. She supported the other pay increases.
The CAMP union represents neighborhood law attorneys, executive secretaries, the community & volunteer coordinator, paralegal positions, risk manager, and assistant water distribution superintendent, among others.
Since the council took each raise separately - that allowed Carr, as a member of the public, to address the council three times. She drew the ire of Brown during her final comments to the council when she questioned interim City Manager Mike Malone’s ability to lead.
“Mr. Malone, for whatever his strengths are in the water department, he seems to be a nice enough person, but I’m not convinced that he is up to the job in terms of watching our budget, preparing us for more than one or two years,” Carr said.
Brown defended Malone, who was elevated to the interim position in October after being hired as the city’s water director in 2017.
“We’re talking about a man who has multiple degrees, multiple experiences, the last speaker could study her whole life and would never achieve the level of education and experience this man has,” Brown said about Malone and Carr.
Loera-Diaz, who didn’t approve of naming Malone to the position, also defended Malone, saying her opinion about him had changed.
“Since he became our interim city manager, I have had nothing but good things to say about him,” Loera-Diaz said.
Vallejo Mayor Robert McConnell expressed concern about departing staff. He said a code enforcement officer took a job with the city of Oakland for $40,000 more than what Vallejo was paying.
“That’s a salary for many people in our community for a whole year,” McConnell added.
The mayor said he was happy that the union contracts are for three years as city staff will have more time to work on other projects.
Meanwhile, Councilmember Pippin Dew, at large, said the city was in a position to give the raises.
“Our organization is financially healthy and so we are able to make these increases to salaries, wisely,” Dew said.
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